by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
For the first time in his WEC career, Jose Aldo had no idea what to do.
He had just steamrolled Mike Brown to win the promotion’s featherweight title at WEC 44, the culmination of a seven-year journey from the streets of Manaus, Brazil, to Rio de Janeiro to the lights of Las Vegas.
Usually, he did his own version of “The Happy Dance” after stopping an opponent: a spring-step around the cage, palms upward and arms outstretched. This time, it was all a little overwhelming.
He did, however, find time to kiss WEC general manager Reed Harris on the forehead.
Aldo, 23, shared an emotional phone conversation with his family back in Brazil, who had watched the fight live thanks to a new TV deal between the promotion and sports channel Globosat.
“They all cried when they saw that I won,” he told reporters in a media breakfast the day of UFC 106.
After living at his gym in Rio in the early days of his career, he and his wife now have an apartment in the city. The $26,000 he banked for the fight would go towards his family, Aldo said, though he wasn’t distracted by the financial stakes of the night.
“I leave everything outside the cage,” he said. “I leave all my problems, all my family, all my emotions. At that point in time, I’m just focused on the fight and put on the best performance I can do.”
The young champion felt he would win that night, but that was no different than any other fight.
“Every night I walk into the cage, I feel like it’s my night,” he said.
And so far, no one’s said different. The victory was Aldo’s sixth straight TKO victory and his highest profile opponent to date. Brown was expected to have the wrestling advantage, but couldn’t take the Brazilian down and found himself trapped on his stomach eating punches until the fight was halted early in the second.
As quickly as the fight came to an end, Aldo felt he could have been more aggressive against Brown and finished it earlier.
Aldo said he’s enjoyed the attention he’s gotten from the performance and wants to learn English so his American fans get to know him better. He plans to travel stateside for training at Black House in Los Angeles, which shares a working relationship with his home gym, Nova Uniao.
Meanwhile, he’s auctioning off items from the fight to benefit young martial artists living in Rio’s poverty-stricken favelas.
Back home, he says he’s not overlooked for more famous fighters like Pedro Rizzo and Anderson Silva as much.
Aldo doesn’t yet have a challenger to his belt, but if former champion Urijah Faber gets past Raphael Assuncao at WEC 46, a showdown might be inevitable.
For the time being, though, Aldo will let his accomplishment sink in. And eat, a lot.
“Life is good,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard to get here.”